Archive for the ‘In The Dust Of This Planet book club’ Category

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension - third eye squegee

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

William Blake – The Marriage of Heaven and Hell



This same idea is seen in “The Borderlands,” an episode of the classic TV series Outer Limits. Aired in 1960 and directed by Leslie Stevens, the episode also juxtaposes science and magic, though in ways different from the occult detective genre. The episode opens, significantly, with a séance. An old, wealthy industrialist is attempting to reach his son, who has recently died in a car accident. However, not all present are convinced of the spiritual medium, and one of the assistants calls their bluff, revealing a simple cloth-and-string rig. After the failure of the séance, a discussion ensues about the possibility of reaching the dead. The others present at the table are scientists, working on the use of modern turbine power to open a gateway to the fourth dimension. Using a simple demonstration of magnets and an introductory lecture in quantum physics, the scientists convince the industrialist to use the city’s entire power plant for a brief period of time to try to open the gateway. The caveat is that whoever goes through to the other side must also search for the industrialist’s dead son.

The bulk of the episode details the experiment. Unlike the Electric Pentacle, which in form and function remains a traditional magic circle, here the magic circle is different. In the center of the lab, a large chamber serves as the platform or portal. Around it is arranged various unnamed laboratory technology – huge magnets, electron scanners, and tape-driven computers. This “black box” is the magic circle, and its techniques are not magic but laboratory physics, its animating principle not the magical word or sign but the principle of atomic magnetism. The episode documents the experimental protocols for each phase of the experiment, as laboratory technicians recite in monotone voices instructions and data, sounding like a very different type of grimoire. At the experiment’s peak, the scientist does enter into the fourth dimension, depicted in the episode as a wonderful montage worthy of Surrealist cinema. Space and time collapse in the consciousness of the scientist, but the search for the dead is for naught. If the occult detective genre still attempted to strike a balance between science and magic, Outer Limits episodes like these make a claim for bleeding-edge science as the new occultism, and electromagnetic laboratory chambers like the one we see as the new magic circles. If the lab is the circle, then the lab experiment is the magical ritual.

The Outer Limits episode ends on a note of caution, with humanity saving the world from its own inventions. But not all modern scientific incarnations of the magic circle are so filled with optimism. We get a slightly different, more menacing picture from early 20th century writers in the “weird fiction” tradition like H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s short story “From Beyond,” published in 1934 in the pulp magazine Fantasy Fan, takes the technological magic circle in a different direction. Instead of serving as a gateway or portal to other dimensions – a function still very much within the traditional magic circle – Lovecraft’s characters construct a magic circle whose function is the dissolving of the boundary between the natural and supernatural, the four-dimensional and the other-dimensional, the world revealed and the world as hidden.


In “From Beyond,” the narrator recounts the experiments of one Crawford Tillinghast, a reclusive physicist who begins to explain his rationale as follows [EXPANDED]:

“What do we know,” he had said, “of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with a wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have. I have always believed that such strange, inaccessible worlds exist at our very elbows, and now I believe I have found a way to break down the barriers. I am not joking. Within twenty-four hours that machine near the table will generate waves acting on unrecognised sense-organs that exist in us as atrophied or rudimentary vestiges. Those waves will open up to us many vistas unknown to man, and several unknown to anything we consider organic life. We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight. We shall see these things, and other things which no breathing creature has yet seen. We shall overleap time, space, and dimensions, and without bodily motion peer to the bottom of creation.

(in Lovecraft’s inimitable prose, italics always indicate an epiphany of cosmic horror…). Tillinghast goes on to show the narrator a device he has constructed, set up in the center of the laboratory, which Lovecraft only describes as a “detestable electrical machine, glowing with a sickly, sinister, violet luminosity.”

Seated around the device, in the center of the lab, the narrator and Tillinghast re-enact the magic circle of Faustus and his later incarnations. When Tillinghast turns on the device, the narrator experiences an influx of color and shape. Quickly, however, the trip begins to turn sour: “At another time I felt huge animate things brushing past me and occasionally walking or drifting through by supposedly solid body.”

Finally, the narrator “sees” around him that which has always existed but which human senses forever obscure: “Foremost among the living objects were great inky, jellyfish monstrosities which flabbily quivered in harmony with the vibrations from the machine. They were present in loathsome profusion, and I saw to my horror that they overlapped; that they were semi-fluid and capable of passing through one another and through what we know as solids.” The horror of this “cosmic” and “preter-natural” realization is then doubled by another more tangible horror. As Tillinghast exclaims to the narrator, “Don’t move,’ he cautioned, ‘for in these rays we are able to be seen as well as to see.” Tillinghast, who by now has gone far into mad-scientist territory, begins to prophesize of “ultimate things” stealthily approaching “from beyond.”

With Lovecraft, we see several transformations to the magic circle. First, as with the Electric Pentacle, the magic circle’s function is inverted – it now serves to focus and intensify the strange, enigmatic appearance of the “hiddenness” of the world. And it does so not through traditional magic, but through the modern sorcery of science; instead of referencing alchemy or necromancy, Lovecraft’s characters use the language of optics, physics, and the fourth dimension. There is also a second transformation to the magic circle, which is that science and technology are not just used to upgrade the magic circle – they are the magic circle. This distinguishes the device in “From Beyond” from the Electric Pentacle; while the latter remains a traditional magic circle, the device in Lovecraft’s story distills the metaphysical principle of the magic circle, which is a boundary or point of mediation between two different ontological orders, two different planes of reality. Lovecraft discards the architectonics of the magic circle, but keeps the metaphysics. The device serves as nothing more than a nodal point from which the characters are able to “see” the extra-dimensional reality and the weird creatures that swim about them every day. The aim, then, of the device as a magic circle is primarily a philosophical one: rather than assuming the division between the natural and supernatural, and then utilizing the magic circle to manage or govern the boundary between them, in “From Beyond” the magic circle is used to reveal the already-existing non-separation between natural and supernatural, the “here and now” and the “beyond.”


A third and final transformation to the magic circle has to do with the disappearance of the circle itself, while its powers still remain in effect. During the story, as the characters witness the “beyond,” the device itself gradually recedes into the background as the characters can only look about in a state of horrified awe. It is as if we get the effects of the magic circle, but without the magic circle itself. Nearly all the traditional uses of the magic circle adopt the model of spectator and spectacle – inside the circle is the audience, and outside it is the dramatic action (again, this is most explicit in the film version of The Devil Rides Out). In “From Beyond,” however, we lose this separation, and there is no spectacle that we may view from inside the safety of the circle. Instead, natural and supernatural blend into a kind of ambient, atmospheric no-place, with the characters bathed in the alien ether of unknowable dimensions. The center of the circle is, then, really everywhere…and its circumference, really nowhere.


Blindsight by Peter Watts:

“You’re blind,” he said without turning. “Did you know know that?”

“I didn’t.”

“You. Me. Everyone.” He interlocked his fingers and clenched as if in prayer, hard enough to whiten the knuckles. Only then did I notice: no cigarette.

“Vision’s mostly a lie anyway,” he continued. “We don’t really see anything except a few hi-res degrees where the eye focuses. Everything else is just peripheral blur, just— light and motion. Motion draws the focus. And your eyes jiggle all the time, did you know that, Keeton? Saccades, they’re called. Blurs the image, the movement’s way too fast for the brain to integrate so your eye just—shuts down between pauses. It only grabs these isolated freeze-frames, but your brain edits out the blanks and stitches an — an illusion of continuity into your head.”

He turned to face me. “And you know what’s really amazing? If something only moves during the gaps, your brain just—ignores it. It’s invisible.”

Cunningham shook his head. Something that sounded disturbingly like a giggle escaped his mouth.

“I’m saying saying these things can see your nerves firing from across the room, and integrate that into a crypsis strategy, and then send motor commands to act on that strategy, and then send other commands to stop the motion before your eyes come back online. All in the time it would take a mammalian nerve impulse to make it halfway from your shoulder to your elbow. These things are fast, Keeton. Way faster than we could have guessed even from that high-speed whisper line they were using. They’re bloody superconductors.”

It took a conscious effort to keep from frowning. “Is that even possible?”

“Every nerve impulse generates an electromagnetic field. That makes it detectable.”

“But Rorschach’s EM fields are so—I mean, reading the firing of a single optic nerve through all that interference—”

“It’s not interference. The fields are part of them, remember? That’s probably how they do it.”

“So they couldn’t do that here.”

“You’re not listening. The trap you set wouldn’t have caught anything like that, not unless it wanted to be caught. We didn’t grab specimens at all. We grabbed spies.”

Original Source Material

The.Mist 1

There are, of course, a number of modern novels and films that portray mists as gothic, malevolent forces, often that serve as cover for ghosts, monsters, or unknown miasmas.

The.Mist 2

The presence of a magic site – some locale from which the hidden world can manifest itself, often with disastrous effects – implies some point of origin for the hidden world, or at least for its manner of manifesting itself to us as human beings.

Ghostbusters (1984) - magikal site 2

In our previous readings we considered the theme of the hidden world as manifest in “mists” – clouds, gases, and the like. There we saw how the hidden world often manifests itself in ways that are cataclysmic – at least for the human characters in those stories. Not surprisingly, genre horror is also replete with ooze.

Ghostbusters (1984) - slimed

In our consideration of ooze – as one facet of the hidden world – we have one more step to take, and that is to consider ooze not only as archaeological and geological, but noological as well. Here ooze is not just a biological amoeba, and not just the mud of the Earth; here ooze begins to take on the qualities of thought itself.

Event.Horizon. 1.2

The hiddenness of the world, whether revealed via the human-oriented motif of the magic circle, or the unhuman motif of the magic site, puts forth the greatest challenge, which is how to live in and as part of such hiddenness. In that ambivalent moment in which the world-in-itself presents itself to us, but without immediately becoming the human-centric world-for-us, might there be a way of understanding hiddenness as intrinsic to the human as well?

Ghosts.of.Mars. 1.1

The “hiddenness of the world” is another name for the supernatural, exterior to its assimilation by either science or religion – that is, exterior to the world-for-us. But these days we like to think that we are much too cynical, much too smart to buy into this – the supernatural no longer exists, is no longer possible…or at least not in the same way. In a sense, it is hard to escape the sense of living in a world that is not just a human world, but also a planet, a globe, a climate, an infosphere, an atmosphere, a weather pattern…a rift, a tectonic shift, a storm, a cataclysm. If the supernatural in a conventional sense is no longer possible, what remains after the “death of God” is an occulted, hidden world.

Ghosts.of.Mars. 2

Event.Horizon. 2.1

Additional Content

Hellraiser Bloodline_Angelique

Hellraiser: Bloodline

Lemarchand’s box is a fictional lock puzzle or puzzle box appearing in horror stories by Clive Barker, or in works based on his original stories. The best known of these boxes is the Lament Configuration, which features prominently throughout the Hellraiser movie series. This was designed and made by Simon Sayce, one of the original creative team. A Lemarchand’s box is a mystical/mechanical device that acts as a door — or a key to a door — to another dimension or plane of existence. The solution of the puzzle creates a bridge through which beings may travel in either direction across this “Schism”. The inhabitants of these other realms may seem demonic to humans. An ongoing debate in the film series is whether the realm accessed by the Lament Configuration is intended to be the Abrahamic version of Hell, or a dimension of endless pain and suffering that is original to the Hellraiser films.

Echopraxia by Peter Watts:

“Come on, Oldschool. We’re long past the days when all you had to do was clock a falling apple or compare beak length in finches. Science has been running into limits ever since it started trying to get Schrödinger’s cat to play with balls of invisible string. Go down a few orders of mag and everything’s untestable conjecture again. Math and philosophy. You know as well as I do that reality has a substructure. Science can’t go there.”

“Nothing can. Faith may claim—”

“Knot theory,” Lianna said. “Invented it for the sheer beauty of the artifact. We didn’t have particle accelerators back then; we had no evidence at all that it would turn out to describe subatomic physics a century or two down the road. Pre-Socratic Greeks intuited atomic theory in two hundred B.C. Buddhists were saying centuries ago that we can’t trust our senses, that sensation itself is an act of faith. Hinduism’s predicated on the Self as illusion: no NMRs a thousand years ago, no voxel readers. No evidence. And damned if I can see the adaptive advantage of not believing in your own existence; but neurologically it happens to be true.”

She beamed at him with the beatific glow of the true convert.

“There’s an intuition, Dan. It’s capricious, it’s unreliable, it’s corruptible—but it’s so powerful when it works, and it’s no coincidence that it ties into the same parts of the brain that give you the rapture. The Bicamerals harnessed it. They amped the temporal and they rewired the parietals—”

“You mean ripped them out completely.”

“—and they had to leave conventional language back in the dust, but they figured it out. Their religion, for want of a better word, goes places science can’t. Science backs it up, as far as science can go; there’s no reason to believe it doesn’t keep right on working after it leaves science behind.”

“You mean you have faith it keeps working,” Brüks observed drily.

“Do you measure Earth’s gravity every time you step outside? Do you reinvent quantum circuits from scratch whenever you boot up, just in case the other guys missed something?” She gave him a moment to answer. “Science depends on faith,” she continued, when he didn’t. “Faith that the rules haven’t changed, faith that the other guys got the measurements right. All science ever did was measure a teensy sliver of the universe and assume that everything else behaved the same way. But the whole exercise falls apart if the universe doesn’t follow consistent laws. How do you test if that’s true?”

“If two experiments yield different results—”

“Happens all the time, my friend. And when it does, every good scientist discounts those results because they failed to replicate. One of the experiments must have been flawed. Or they both were. Or there’s some unknown variable that’ll make everything balance out just as soon as we discover what it is. The idea that physics itself might be inconsistent? Even if you considered the possibility in your wildest dreams, how could you test for it when the scientific method only works in a consistent universe?”

He tried to think of an answer.

“We’ve always thought c and friends ruled supreme, right out to the quasars and beyond,” Lianna mused. “What if they’re just—you know, some kind of local ordinance? What if they’re a bug? Anyway”—she fed her plate into the recycler—“I gotta go.”


As a scientific concept, extinction is distinguished from its theological and apocalyptic variant by the work of naturalists and zoologists such as Georges Cuvier and the Comte de Buffon. Attempting to discover a scientific framework for studying life that would avoid the religious framework of the Great Chain of Being, the study of fossils became a key locus for investigating the emergence and disappearance of living beings. Cuvier, in particular, became a proponent of “catastrophism,” the theory that the Earth is periodically visited by sudden, cataclysmic events that not only radically alter the Earth’s geological composition, but the organisms living on the Earth as well. In the late 18th and early 19th century, Cuvier published a number of archaeological studies that established extinction as a scientific reality, culminating in his multi-volume work, Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles de Quadrupeds. As Cuvier provocatively notes, behind the revolutions of nations there lies another type of revolution, that of the planet itself:

“The ancient history of the globe, the definitive term towards which all research tends, is also in itself one of the most curious objects to have captured the enlightened mind; and, if one allows oneself to follow, in the infancy of our species, the nearly invisible traces of so many extinct nations, one will also find there, gathered in the shadows of the Earth’s infancy, the traces of revolutions anterior to the existence of all nations.”

~ In The Dust Of This Planet

Everybody talks about the Tunguska Event, nobody mentions the Carrington Event.


“In the past two days, the sun has unleashed three monster solar flares from a sunspot group the size of Jupiter. These powerful phenomena are amazing to watch, but if they were pointed toward the Earth, they would spell big trouble. Radiation from the sun’s coronal mass ejections (CMEs) could disrupt our power grids and satellites.

Unfortunately, the sun and its atmosphere are devilishly hard to predict. But new research published today in Nature reveals new information about how CMEs form, which could help scientists improve their forecast.”


All this may seem like doomsaying, but the historic record suggests otherwise: The Halloween Storm, in fact, pales in comparison to several earlier events. In 1989, ground currents from a less intense geomagnetic storm knocked out a high-voltage transformer at a hydroelectric power plant Quebec, plunging the Canadian province into a prolonged 9-hour blackout on an icy winter night. A far more extreme geomagnetic storm washed over the Earth in May of 1921, its magnitude illustrated in world-girdling aurorae and in fires that broke out in telegraph offices, telephone stations, and railroad routing terminals — sites that sucked up geomagnetic currents traveling through nascent power grids. An even more extreme storm in September 1859 caused geomagnetic currents so strong that for days telegraph operators could disconnect their equipment from battery power and send messages solely via the “auroral current” induced in their transmission lines. The 1859 storm is known as the “Carrington Event,” after a British astronomer who witnessed an associated solar flare and connected it with the subsequent earthbound disturbances.

“The physics of the Sun and of Earth’s magnetic field have not fundamentally changed, but we have,” Kappenman says. “We decided to build the power grids, and we’ve progressively made them more vulnerable as we’ve connected them to every aspect of our lives. Another Carrington Event is going to occur someday.” But unlike in 1859, when the telegraph network was the sole technology endangered by space weather, or in 1921, when electrification was in its infancy, today’s vulnerable systems are legion.


Not everyone is optimistic that our modern society will successfully address the problem—including physicist Avi Schnurr, who is also the president of the Electric Infrastructure Security Council, a non-governmental organization advocating space-weather resilience. “If a Carrington Event happened right now it probably wouldn’t be a wake-up alarm—it would be a goodnight call,” he says. “This is a case where we have to do something that is not often successfully achieved by governments, and certainly not by democracies: We have to take concerted action against a predicted threatening event without having actually experienced the event itself in modern times.”

Protecting the power grid on Earth is, in principle, relatively straightforward. (Countries such as Finland and Canada have already begun to take action, with promising results.) Most high-voltage transformers are directly connected to the ground to neutralize power surges from lightning strikes and other transient phenomena. They’re vulnerable to space weather because geomagnetic currents flow upward through these ground connections.

By placing arrays of electrical resistors or capacitors as intermediaries between the ground and critical transformers, like those serving nuclear power plants and major metropolitan areas, that connection would be severed—and the space-weather threat greatly reduced if not entirely eliminated. Experts estimate this could be accomplished within a few years, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per transformer. In practice, however, it’s not so easy. So far, U.S. power companies have balked at voluntary installation of such devices, and current government regulations don’t require such protections.


In a paper published on arXiv, an online repository, two astronomers, Tsvi Piran of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Raul Jimenez of the University of Barcelona, argue that some regions of the galaxy are less friendly to life than others. Moreover, the friendly areas may have been smaller in the past than they are now. If that is true, then it may be the case that complex life on Earth is just about as ancient as it is possible for complex life to be. And, since complexity necessarily precedes intelligence, that might mean human beings really are the first intelligent life forms to evolve in the Milky Way.

Dr Piran and Dr Jimenez are interested in gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most energetic phenomena yet discovered in the universe. No one is certain what causes them, but the leading theories are a hypernova—the sudden collapse of a massive star to form a black hole—or a collision between two neutron stars, the ultra-dense remnants of supernovas (slightly less massive collapsed stars). What is not in doubt is their prodigious power: a typical GRB generates as much energy in a few seconds as a star will in its entire multi-billion-year lifetime. That would be bad news for any life-bearing planet which was too close.

The idea that a nearby GRB (nearby, in this context, means within about 10,000 light-years) would wreck the biosphere of an Earthlike planet was proposed in 1999 by James Annis of Fermilab, in Illinois. First, the blast of radiation would instantly kill most living organisms on or near the surface—not just those facing the blast but also, via secondary showers of charged particles and re-emitted gamma rays, those on the hemisphere facing away from it. Second, the gamma rays would also stir up chemical reactions that create ozone-killing molecules sufficiently powerful to destroy more than 90% of an Earthlike planet’s ozone layer, and keep it destroyed for several years. This would let in intense ultraviolet light from the planet’s parent star, which would blitz any complex biological molecules it hit. Anything that survived the initial blast would thus be subjected to years of serious sunburn.

The Earthlike planet of most interest to human beings is, of course, Earth itself. Mankind’s home is 4.6 billion years old, and Dr Piran’s and Dr Jimenez’s model suggests there is almost a 90% chance that it has been hit by at least one GRB of this power in that period. For the first half of Earth’s existence, only the direct impact would have mattered, since there was no ozone layer to annihilate (the simple bacteria which existed at this time were either adapted to UV, or lived underground or underwater and were thus immune to its effects). But once photosynthesis started (about 2.3 billion years ago), oxygen—and therefore ozone, the triatomic form of that element—began to accumulate, and living things came out of hiding and got used to living under its protection. From then on, a nearby GRB would certainly have caused a mass extinction.

Any extinction that happened before about 540m years ago, when shelly animals appeared and fossils became commonplace, would probably be invisible in the geological record. But since then there have been five—one of which, that at the end of the Ordovician period, has no obvious explanation. Perhaps not coincidentally, Dr Piran’s and Dr Jimenez’s model suggests there is a 50% chance Earth has been struck by a GRB in the past 500m years.



Follow this multi-disciplinary, scientific study as it examines the evidence of a great global catastrophe that occurred only 11,500 years ago. Crustal shifting, the tilting of Earth’s axis, mass extinctions, upthrusted mountain ranges, rising and shrinking land masses, and gigantic volcanic eruptions and earthquakes–all indicate that a fateful confrontation with a destructive cosmic visitor must have occurred. The abundant geological, biological, and climatological evidence from this dire event calls into question many geological theories and will awaken our memories to our true–and not-so-distant–past.

Everybody talks about the Tunguska Event, nobody mentions the theorised several orders of magnitude greater Younger Dryas Impact. Why is that?

The Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, also known as the Clovis comet hypothesis, is one of the competing scientific explanations for the onset of the Younger Dryas cold period. The hypothesis, which scientists continue to debate, proposes that the climate of that time was cooled by the impact or air burst of one or more comets..

The general hypothesis states that about about 12,900 BP calibrated (10,900 14C uncalibrated) years ago, air burst(s) or impact(s) from a near-Earth object(s) set areas of the North American continent on fire, disrupted climate and caused the extinction of most of the megafauna in North America and the demise of the North American Clovis culture after the last glacial period. The Younger Dryas ice age lasted for about 1,200 years before the climate warmed again. This swarm is hypothesized to have exploded above or possibly on the Laurentide Ice Sheet in the region of the Great Lakes. Though no major impact crater has been identified, the proponents suggest that it would be physically possible for such an air burst to have been similar to but orders of magnitude larger than the Tunguska event of 1908. The hypothesis proposed that animal and human life in North America not directly killed by the blast or the resulting wildfires would have suffered due to the disrupted ecologic relationships affecting the continent.

Further reading: Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling – R. B. Firestone, A. West, et al

Recent evidence continues to oppose the YDB impact hypothesis. New research, which analyzed sediments claimed, by the hypothesis proponents, to be deposits resulting from a bolide impact were, in fact, dated from much later or much earlier time periods than the proposed date of the cosmic impact. The researchers examined 29 sites that are commonly referenced to support the impact theory to determine if they can be geologically dated to around 13,000 years ago. Crucially, only 3 of the sites actually date from that time. According to the researchers, the Younger Dryas impact event evidence “fails the critical chronological test of an isochronous event at the YD onset, which, coupled with the many published concerns about the extraterrestrial origin of the purported impact markers, renders the YDIH unsupported. There is no reason or compelling evidence to accept the claim that a cosmic impact occurred ∼12,800 y ago and caused the Younger Dryas.


Firestone (2014) asserted evidence for numerous (23) nearby (d<300 pc) supernovae within the Middle and Late Pleistocene. If true, this would have strong implications for the irradiation of the Earth; at this rate, mass extinction level events due to supernovae would be more frequent than 100 Myr. However, there are numerous errors in the application of past research. The paper overestimates likely nitrate and 14C production from moderately nearby supernovae by about four orders of magnitude. Moreover, the results are based on wrongly selected (obsolete) nitrate and 14C datasets. The use of correct and up-to-date datasets does not confirm the claimed results. The claims in the paper are invalidated.

sea surface heigh anomalies

The world is increasingly unthinkable – a world of planetary disasters, emerging pandemics, tectonic shifts, strange weather, oil-drenched seascapes, and the furtive, always-looming threat of extinction. In spite of our daily concerns, wants, and desires, it is increasingly difficult to comprehend the world in which we live and of which we are a part.

internet map

On the one hand, we are increasingly more and more aware of the world in which we live as a non-human world, a world outside, one that is manifest is the effects of global climate change, natural disasters, the energy crisis, and the progressive extinction of species world-wide. On the other hand, all these effects are linked, directly and indirectly, to our living in and living as a part of this non-human world. Hence contradiction is built into this challenge – we cannot help but to think of the world as a human world, by virtue of the fact that it is we human beings that think it.

Super Typhoon Nuri becomes a strong Bering Sea Storm3

Tragically, we are most reminded of the world-in-itself when the world-in-itself is manifest in the form of natural disasters. The discussions on the long-term impact of climate change also evoke this reminder of the world-in-itself, as the specter of extinction furtively looms over such discussions. Using advanced predictive models, we have even imagined what would happen to the world if we as human beings were to become extinct. So, while we can never experience the world-in-itself, we seem to be almost fatalistically drawn to it, perhaps as a limit that defines who we are as human beings.

Snaking Filament Eruption2

The view of Cosmic Pessimism is a strange mysticism of the world-without-us, a hermeticism of the abyss, a noumenal occultism. It is the difficult thought of the world as absolutely unhuman, and indifferent to the hopes, desires, and struggles of human individuals and groups. Its limit-thought is the idea of absolute nothingness, unconsciously represented in the many popular media images of nuclear war, natural disasters, global pandemics, and the cataclysmic effects of climate change. Certainly these are the images, or the specters, of Cosmic Pessimism, and different from the scientific, economic, and political realities and underlie them; but they are images deeply embedded in our psyche nonetheless. Beyond these specters there is the impossible thought of extinction, with not even a single human being to think the absence of all human beings, with no thought to think the negation of all thought.



The spiral is, in one sense, an abstract, geometrical shape. It has no actual existence in the world, except as a manifestation in the form of a spiral (a snail’s shell, a slice of fish cake). This paradoxical state means that the spiral can only be said to negatively exist – the spiral in itself is never manifest except as a spiral “in” some thing, in the world. This sort of bleed-over effect of the abstract into the concrete world is different from our traditional examples of the magic circle… On the one hand, the spiral has no existence except as manifestation – and it is this contagious, pervasive manifestation that the characters describe as unnatural or strange. On the other hand, throughout the Uzumaki series, the spiral is more than just a pattern in nature – it is also equivalent to the idea of the spiral itself. That is, the abstract symbol and the concrete manifestation are inseparable, to the point that the outer world of the spiral’s manifestation can “infect” or spread into the ideational world of the spiral as an idea. Beyond a geometrical symbol, and beyond a pattern in nature, the spiral in Uzumaki is ultimately equivalent to thought itself – but “thought” understood here as not simply being the interior, private thoughts of an individual. Instead, the spiral-as-thought is also “thought” as unhuman, “thought” as equivalent to the world-without-us. In this sense Uzumaki suggests that the Absolute is horrific, in part because it is utterly unhuman.

vlcsnap-2014-03-11-20h35m58s6 - cosmic horror

The magic site is, simply, the place where the hiddenness of the world presents itself in its paradoxical way (revealing itself – as hidden). In some cases magic sites are like magic circles, constructed by human beings for specific purposes. This is the case with the mad scientist theme in the Lovecraft story. More often than not, however, the magic site spontaneously happens without any human intervention. The magic site need not be on sacred ground, and it need not have special buildings or temples constructed for it. It can be in the darkest, most obscure, hidden caverns or underground fissures. It may be an accidental or unintentional site – the site of an archaeological dig, the site of a mining operation, the site of a forest or underground subway tunnel. Whereas the magic circle involves an active human governance of the boundary between the apparent world and the hidden world, the magic site is its dark inverse: the anonymous, unhuman intrusion of the hidden world into the apparent world, the enigmatic manifesting of the world-without-us into the world-for-us, the intrusion of the Planet into the World. If the magic circle is the human looking out and confronting the unhuman, anonymous, hidden world, then the magic site is that hidden world looking back at us. It is not surprising, then, that whereas the magic circle evokes vaguely anthropoid creatures (demons, ghosts, the dead), the magic site creeps forth with entities that are neither animate nor inanimate, neither organic nor inorganic, neither material nor ideal.